House Speaker Brian Egolf has drawn fire for comments on redistricting and for initial objections to the creation of an independent commission for the upcoming round of redistricting (“New Mexico House speaker draws bipartisan ire over redistricting stance,” Feb. 26).
Though these commissions have bipartisan support in the heavily Democratic state Legislature and are even listed as a goal in the Democratic Party of New Mexico’s platform, Egolf has stated that an independent commission could harm Democrats’ advantage in the Legislature and the U.S. House. He later found a compromise commission proposal he could support.
An independent commission likely would produce a map similar to the current plan, which would be fairer at the state level because Republican House candidates won 45.12 percent of the vote; currently, the state’s U.S. House delegation is made up of two Democrats and one Republican. That’s representative of the vote. However, at a national level, such a commission would further increase the current Republican advantage due to gerrymandering in red and purple states.
After the 2020 election, the FiveThirtyEight statistical analysis site reported that the Republican Party won almost every state where redistricting could affect future partisan compositions. Though Democrats still have full control over states such as California and Washington, these states already have established independent redistricting commissions. On the other hand, the Republicans control states such as Texas and Florida, where legislatures control redistricting. Because of this, Texas could pass an extreme gerrymander while California lacks that capability.
Decisions in the U.S. House affect all citizens in the country, and if Democratic states keep passing independent commissions while Republican states do not, the popular vote required for a House majority could shift even more toward Republicans; in 2012, the Republicans needed only 45 percent of the vote for a House majority.
To keep the U.S. House representative of all Americans, Democratic states need to pass lopsided maps to check those of Republican states. Democratic seats are going to be lost due to redistricting in Texas and Florida, and this must be checked by Democratic maps in states like New Mexico and New York.
Gerrymandering is a problem faced by all Americans living in a representative Democracy. In fact, my town, Los Alamos, is divided in half in the state Senate even though it and the surrounding counties are heavily Democratic. It results in a given political group gaining an unfair advantage over another. Instead of having legislators choose their own districts, it makes much more sense for an independent commission to preserve communities of interest. In an ideal scenario, each state would have some sort of commission with the absolute authority to draw maps.
However, the current scenario is that blue states are passing commissions while red states are not. If only the Republican Party is able to draw maps, the Democratic Party will never be able to win a majority in the U.S. House even with a majority of the votes. Until House Resolution 1 — sweeping national voting reform — passes and all states are forced to adopt an independent redistricting commission, blue states such as New Mexico should not consider adopting a commission, or Republican-controlled state legislatures will be able to choose the composition of the U.S. House, which affects all states.
Though Egolf’s justification for not adopting a commission is in line with other hyperpartisans, I believe his initial opposition justified.